I’m sure plenty of us like to think we’re great communicators. It’s something we’ve been doing our entire lives. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. We all ramble on when we’re nervous, use too many filler words, or interrupt other people when we’re passionate. We’re only human and it’s something that’s likely never going to change.
But we’re also guilty of getting stuck in bad habits when it comes to our communication. We assume our message is clear or valuable just because we think it is, without any real consideration of our recipients. What we should be doing is being honest with ourselves and recognising any shortcomings and ways we can improve.
So let’s look at four simple habits you can integrate into your business communication today.
Prioritise your audience
Effective business communication is about how you identify and respond to the needs of your audience. Whether it’s an in-person conversation, email, or text, you want to remove yourself from the picture entirely, focusing only on them and what they need from the exchange.
Always aim to write or speak with them in mind. Sure, a message might make sense to you, but play devil’s advocate and question whether it’d also be clear to them.
Prioritising your audience also looks like discussing boundaries as to how and when someone prefers being contacted. Consider what form of communication your recipient prefers or what time is most convenient for them to take your call. And leave enough gaps in in-person conversations to hear the other person’s perspective, or leave an email open to their response.
Have you ever received an email that’s left you more confused than you were before you read it? Often, this will be down to laziness on the part of the sender. They’ve sent you the bare minimum information, leaving you with countless unanswered questions to now decode.
To avoid this, always try to anticipate your audience’s questions. Similar to the above, put yourself in their shoes and approach your message from their knowledge and experience level. Say you’re a manager speaking with someone in an entry-level position, what aspects of your message could do with further explanation?
If you’re communicating with someone with the goal of them completing a task, think of it this way: the more information you provide, the sooner and more effectively the job will be done.
Consider the context
Effective communication should always consider the wider context of the exchange. Where you are, who you’re talking to, and the wider power dynamic at play, to name a few factors.
An example of this is how we all became more empathetic and compassionate during COVID. Understanding we were all experiencing a tough situation, our communication was often softened to suit. And this is a great example of letting context shape your communication style. Another is if you know a member of your team is under great stress. You’ll want to adapt your tone and communication to better meet their needs in the moment.
If you’re speaking with someone in person, context also includes your nonverbal communication. Research shows that 70 to 93 percent of all communication is nonverbal. While you might be saying one thing, your body language could be implying something else entirely. Are you speaking in an approachable, friendly tone, while simultaneously crossing your arms and avoiding eye contact? That’s just sending mixed signals.
Identify a shared goal
This tip is especially important when delivering bad news or constructive criticism. Any situation where there’s a chance your recipient could get defensive, be intentional about identifying a shared goal.
By putting yourselves on the same team, you instantly diffuse a lot of the tension and discomfort. It becomes less of a you versus them dynamic, and more of a team effort. Think of every conversation as a dance. You need to work together, and if you do, it all goes a lot smoother.
The truth is, you’re probably never going to be a perfect communicator. But neither is anyone else. You may still say “umm” or ramble a little too much in your emails, but by following these four tips, you can begin to unlearn some bad habits that may have been holding your communication back.
Effective communication is a critical aspect of any business. If you want to improve the way you and your team communicate with each other, as well as with your audience, Coster Content would love to help. Contact us on 0161 413 8418 to find out more.